Not-so-candid camera

Dinah Maldonado is a graphic artist with the California Department of Conservation

Today it hit me: I can’t even go into my local post office and mail a simple letter. Homeland Security has hit home—my home.

I am a state worker, and I mail my letters from the main post office at 801 I Street. It has had security guards and metal detectors ever since 9/11. Recently, I was not allowed to mail my letter because I was carrying my camera cell phone.

I couldn’t leave it with the guard. He told me that guards were not allowed to do that. In the past, they’ve been fired for doing so. No helping the customers! Isn’t that what government employees are supposed to do—help customers?

He gave me an option, however: to put my phone in a rented locker at the public library across the street and then return and mail my letter. I felt he was joking and that I was on Candid Camera. There was no smile on his face, and there was surely no smile on mine.

I asked to speak to the person in charge. He said I could complain to Homeland Security. Can you actually contact the department? He didn’t offer a number.

By the way, there were no notices posted that prohibited camera phones.

A simple thing like mailing a letter wasn’t simple at all. This experience opened my eyes to the world around me. I am only one of many who find themselves in similar situations every day. But we always think it happens to the other guy. Now I know differently: It happened to me. It can happen to you.

The security of America is critical. But we as citizens must be aware and alert to the power of Homeland Security. It has become a Big Brother that infringes on our rights as Americans. The upcoming election is crucial; each person’s vote counts. We need to make agencies like Homeland Security accountable for everything they do and say. So, go out and vote; you can make a difference—and perhaps make it easier for all Americans to mail a simple letter.